Method recently helped launch TeachingChannel.org, a platform for building inspired, engaged, and effective classrooms. Creating a community-based video platform for K-12 teachers is a very specific task. However, we discovered many useful lessons about establishing strong communities, enabling content discovery, and effectively delivering video along the way.
One of the main challenges we were faced with for designing TeachingChannel.org is a common question now: how can we facilitate effortless discovery of content that is still relevant, useful, and inspiring? As video increasingly becomes consumed (and preferred) online, video discovery and delivery best practices are still being defined.
To address this, Method began by conducting interviews with the core user base: teachers.
Take time to talk with potential users and understand their needs
Critical to the success of a project is a full understanding of the needs, motivators, and pain points of users. By interviewing, brainstorming, and collaborating with education professionals, we were able to thoroughly understand the deeper needs, patterns, and beliefs of users. Taking the time to do so is essential to shaping the experience; not only does this extra step validate assumptions and designs, it gives insight into which design decisions will make the product a valuable and influential resource.
With Teaching Channel, we soon discovered that teachers wanted this platform to not only be a trustworthy and consistently useful resource, but it also had to instill pride in the profession. This finding was immense; beyond helping the users find useful content, this called for a focus on enabling teachers to get support and inspiration from their peers.
For a content-heavy site, the primary search model should be questioned and rethought to best surface content for the user
Tackling the challenge of facilitating discovery of relevant videos required a different search mechanism than conventional keyword search. Instead, we needed to create opportunities for serendipitous discovery of useful content. These unexpected, “happy accidents” allow users to uncover content that is useful and inspiring.
The solution for Teaching Channel was faceted browsing, which allows for simultaneous finding and browsing of content. Users can filter through tags and keywords to discover content quickly that is relevant, but do not need to limit themselves to specific keywords.
Identify key features or functionality that differentiate the core product and tailor it for users
Video is the heart of the Teaching Channel experience. This key experience had to be designed specifically for the audience; for many, this would be the first and primary site experience. As such, video had to work harder for the users and the community at large.
For Teaching Channel, Method designed a Notebook feature, allowing users to attach notes to videos as they watch, which can then be shared with the community and saved as a personal marker. By allowing users to save notes and contribute to the video experience, the videos continue to enhance in value and usefulness.
Maintaining value and relevance requires an engaged community
Building a vibrant and engaged community is critical to sustaining a resource-driven site and maintaining its value. Motivators to encourage and maintain engagement help build consistent activity.
By heavily engaging with users in the beginning, Method had already personally cultivated a core set of users who would share feedback through Get Satisfaction, email, and discussion posts. The integration of a lightweight award system rewards members for participating both digitally and through real-world rewards. We implemented a simple badge system for site contributors to motivate users to continue to add their value to the site.
The lessons learned from creating TeachingChannel.org continue to earn gains for the organization. Teaching Channel has grown around 11,000% since opening the doors to the public in June 2011. Each month, TeachingChannel.org receives around 70,000 unique visitors, with consistent, rapid growth. Visitors are engaged, digging into an average of three pages and spending nearly four minutes on the site.